Is it still worth learning a second language in Canada in 2015?

Is it still worth learning a second language in Canada in 2015?

Written by Peter Harris
Posted on

The Workopolis team analyzed millions of resumes and job postings to calculate the value of English and French bilingualism in job markets across the country. We also took a look at trends in the supply and demand for other languages by region and sector.

What Canadians say:

  • While roughly 60% of Canadians told us that they believe knowing multiple languages is still essential, this group is fairly evenly split between those who feel that English and French are vital and those who feel that knowing multiple languages is important, but not necessarily French.
  • When we asked the same question to Quebecers specifically, the results were quite different. 75% of respondents told us that knowing English and French is necessary for career success.

While 41% of the candidate resumes in the Workopolis database are for people who are fluent in more than one language, most of these are for other combinations than English and French. Only 11% of Canadian candidate resumes on Workopolis list fluency in both Canada’s official languages.

Trend in job postings

  • Currently, 8.8% of Canadian job postings require candidates to be fluent in both official languages. There has been a slight (2%) decrease in job postings requesting candidates be bilingual in English and French since 2007.
  • In 2006, Spanish was the most commonly requested other language than French in Canadian job postings. Today it has fallen to the number two spot behind Chinese languages – Cantonese and Mandarin.

Second language outside of Quebec

If you look at Canadians outside of Quebec, an equal number of people list fluency in Mandarin and other Chinese languages and in Hindi as claim fluency in French as a second language.

What the Job Market says:

This reflects what we’re seeing on the job market as well. While in Quebec French language skills don’t provide you with a competitive advantage on the job market – they’re simply essential for getting hired. Knowing English opens many more doors for people especially in Montreal and for national and international organizations as well as in the sales, services, hospitality, and tourism fields.

Outside of Quebec, fluency in French provides candidates with a distinct advantage on the job market. It becomes a question of supply and demand. When the need for a skillset is greater than the supply on the market – opportunities and increased wages follow.

On average job postings requiring bilingual candidates receive 20% fewer applications than do similar jobs not requiring a second language. Bilingual applicants face much lower competition for jobs.

Wages

In 2010, economics professors Louis Christofides and Robert Swidinsky from the University of Guelph researched how much knowing both of Canada’s official languages can boost your pay cheque. Their study found that people in Quebec who are fluent in English and French earn an average of 7.5% more than unilingual Francophones.

Outside of Quebec, men who speak both official languages earn an average of 3.8% more than people who speak only English. These dividends are even higher for bilingual women who earn an average of 6.6 per cent more.

The top 10 job markets in Canada for bilingual job seekers
(Where the supply of bilingual workers is smallest compare to the relative demand in job postings)

    1. Toronto, Ontario
    2. Guelph, Ontario
    3. Montreal, Quebec
    4. Kitchener, Ontario
    5. Fredericton, New Brunswick
    6. Hamilton, Ontario
    7. Regina, Saskatchewan
    8. Moncton, New Brunswick
    9. Halifax, Nova Scotia
    10. London, Ontario

The top 10 jobs where bilingual candidates have a competitive advantage
(Where job postings requesting bilingualism receive the fewest applications compared with those only seeking English candidates.)

    1. Billing Administrator
    2. Collections Clerk
    3. Financial Administrator
    4. Technical Support / Customer Service
    5. Human Resources Advisor
    6. Marketing Coordinator
    7. Systems Administrator
    8. Recruitment Consultant
    9. Administrative Assistant
    10. Sales Representative

So as the majority of job postings don’t require candidates to be bilingual, knowing English and French isn’t essential for working in Canada. However, those who do have fluency in both languages have access to more opportunities, face less competition for roles, and earn higher wages.

Interactive Data Table:

We’ve also created an interactive data table that allows you see the supply and demand for workers with various language combinations (from resumes and job postings) in various industries and regions across the country.

Read the full report and download the infographic at: http://workopolis.com/research.

Peter Harris

Peter Harris on Twitter

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